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Coin minted by Herod Agrippa I.
For other with this name, see Agrippa .
Agrippa I also called the Great (10 BC - 44 AD), King of the Jews, was the grandson of Herod the Great, and son of Aristobulus IV and Berenice. His original name was Marcus Julius Agrippa, and he is the king named Herod in the Acts of the Apostles, in the Bible, "Herod (Agrippa)" ( ). He was, according to Josephus, known in his time as "Agrippa the Great".



Josephus informs us that, after the murder of his father, young Agrippa was sent by Herod the Great to the imperial court in Romemarker. There, Tiberius conceived a great affection for him, and had him educated alongside his son Drusus, who also befriended him, and future emperor Claudius. On the death of Drusus, Agrippa, who had been recklessly extravagant and was deeply in debt, was obliged to leave Rome, fleeing to the fortress of Malatha in Idumaea. There, it was said, he contemplated suicide.

After a brief seclusion, through the mediation of his wife Cypros and his sister Herodias, Agrippa was given a sum of money by his uncle, Herodias' husband, Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea, and was allowed to take up residence in Tiberiasmarker, and received the rank of aedile in that city, with a small yearly income. But hav­ing quarrelled with his brother-in-law, he fled to Flaccus, proconsul of Syriamarker. Soon afterwards he was convicted, through the information of his brother Aristobulus, of having received a bribe from the Damascenes, who wished to purchase his influence with the proconsul, and was again com­pelled to flee. He was arrested as he was about to sail for Italymarker, for a sum of money which he owed to the treasury of Caesar, but made his escape, and reached Alexandriamarker, where his wife succeeded in procuring a supply of money from Alexander the Alabarch. He then set sail, and landed at Puteoli. He was favorably received by Tiberius, who en­trusted him with the education of his grandson Tiberius Gemellus. He also formed an intimacy with Caligula, then a popular favorite. Agrippa was one day overheard by his freedman Eutyches expressing a wish for Tiberius' death and the advancement of Caligula, and for this he was cast into prison.

Caligula and Claudius

Following Tiberius' death and the ascension of Agrippa's friend Caligula, Agrippa was set free and made governor first of the territories of Batanaea and Trachonitis that his cousin Herod II had held, then of the tetrarchy of Lysanias, with the title of "king". Caligula also presented him with a golden chain of a weight equal to the iron one he had worn in prison. In 39 AD, Agrippa returned to Rome, and brought about the banishment of his uncle, Herod Antipas, whose tetrarchy over Galilee and Peraea he then was granted.

On the assassination of Caligula in 41, Agrippa's advice helped to secure Claudius' accession as emperor, while he made a show of being in the interest of the senate. As a reward for his assistance, Claudius gave Agrippa dominion over Judeamarker and Samariamarker, while the kingdom of Chalcismarker in Lebanonmarker was at his request given to his brother Herod III. Thus Agrippa became one of the most powerful princes of the east; the territory he possessed exceeded that which was held by his grandfather Herod the Great.

In the city of Berytusmarker he built a theatre and amphitheatre, baths, and porticoes. He expressed similar magnanimity in Sebaste, Heliopolismarker and Caesareamarker. The suspicions of Claudius prevented him from finishing the for­tifications with which he had begun to surround Jerusalem. His friendship was courted by many of the neighboring kings and rulers, some of whom he housed in Tiberiasmarker, which also caused Claudius some displeasure.

Reign and death

Account in Josephus

Agrippa I prutah.
He returned to Judea and governed it to the satisfaction of the Jews. His zeal, private and public, for Judaism is recorded by Josephus and the rabbis. Perhaps because of this, his passage through Alexandriamarker around 40 instigated anti-Jewish riots. At the risk of his own life, or at least of his liberty, he interceded with Caligula on behalf of the Jews, when that emperor was attempting to set up his statue in the temple at Jerusalem shortly before his death in 41.

After Passover in 44, Agrippa went to Caesareamarker, where he had games performed in honor of Claudius. In the midst of his elation Agrippa saw an owl perched over his head. During his imprisonment by Tiberius a similar omen had been interpreted as portending his speedy release, with the warning that should he behold the same sight again, he would die within five days. He was immediately smitten with violent pains, scolded his friends for flattering him and accepted his imminent death. He experienced heart pains and a pain in his abdomen, and died after five days. Acts 12 relates simply that he was eaten by worms (possibly Fournier's gangrene, the same disease that may have killed his grandfather Herod the Great).

Josephus then relates how Aggripa's brother, Herod of Chalcis, and Helcias send Aristo to kill Silas.

Account in the New Testament

In Acts of the Apostles 12 of the New Testament, about the time of the Passover in 44, James, son of Zebedee, was seized by Agrippa's order and put to death by beheading. Agrippa proceeded also to lay hands on Peter, and imprisoned him, but God sent an angel, and the angel released Peter from prison. After that Passover, Agrippa went to Caesareamarker, where the inhabitants of Tyremarker and Sidonmarker waited on him to sue for peace.

Agrippa, gorgeously arrayed, received them in the stadium, and addressed them from a throne, while the audience cried out that his was "the voice of a god, not a man" (in this identical to the account in Josephus). But "the angel of the Lord smote him", and shortly afterwards he died, "eaten of worms", in 44 AD.


By his wife Cypros he had a son, Agrippa II, and three daughters, including Berenice, who first married her uncle Herod III, king of Chalcismarker, and afterwards lived with her brother Agrippa, and subsequently married Polamo, king of Cilicia; she is alluded to by Juvenal; Mariamne, and Drusilla, who married Antonius Felix, the procurator of Judaea.

Agrippa in other media

  • Herod Agrippa is the protagonist of the Italian opera, L’Agrippa tetrarca di Gerusalemme (1724) by Giuseppe Maria Buini (mus.) and Claudio Nicola Stampa (libr.), first performed at the Teatro Ducale of Milanmarker, Italy, on August 28, 1724.
  • Herod Agrippa is a major figure in Robert Graves' novel Claudius the God, as well as the BBC television adaptation I, Claudius, (wherein he was portrayed by James Faulkner). He is depicted as one of Claudius' closest life-long friends.


  1. Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae xvii. 2. § 2
  2. Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae xviii. 7. § 2
  3. Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae xix. 345-350 (Chapter 8 para 2)
  4. Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae xix. Chapter 8 para 3 But before the multitude were made acquainted with Agrippa's being expired, Herod the king of Chalcis, and Helcias the master of his horse, and the king's friend, sent Aristo, one of the king's most faithful servants, and slew Silas, who had been their enemy, as if it had been done by the king's own command.
  5. Juvenal, Satires vi. 156
  6. Josephus, Antiquitates Judaicae xvii. 1. § 2, xviii. 5-8, xix. 4-8
  7. Josephus, The Wars of the Jews i. 28. § 1, ii. 9. 11
  8. Cassius Dio lx. 8
  9. Eusebius of Caesarea, Ecclesiastical History ii. 10
  10. G. Boccaccini, Portraits of Middle Judaism in Scholarship and Arts (Turin: Zamorani, 1992).


  • Yohanan Aharoni & Michael Avi-Yonah, "The MacMillan Bible Atlas", Revised Edition, p. 156 (1968 & 1977, by Carta Ltd.).

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